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Report: AT&T, Verizon to launch LTE-capable iPad 3

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will launch an LTE version of Apple's next (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said that it's unclear whether other carriers will launch the device, which Apple will likely unveil in the first week of March. AT&T and Verizon have been the only two U.S. carriers so far to offer the iPad, though Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) started selling the iPhone last fall. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that the next version of Apple's popular tablet will include an LTE modem, the first for an Apple product. An LTE iPad could presage an LTE iPhone later this year.

Representatives from AT&T and Verizon declined to comment, and Apple, Sprint and T-Mobile USA declined to comment, according to the Journal

Apple has historically held off on supporting new wireless network technologies until the networks provide ample coverage, and thus a positive user experience. Currently, Verizon's LTE network covers more than 200 million POPs and AT&T's LTE network covers more than 74 million POPs. Additionally, the iPad's larger battery and customers' penchant for using the iPad on Wi-Fi networks could have made the addition of LTE more palatable to Apple--critics have noted that LTE connections quickly burn through users' smartphone batteries.

In a separate article, the Journal reported that Apple has had discussion with some of its Asian suppliers about designs for a smaller, 8-inch iPad, which would have the same screen resolution as the iPad 2. The report, which also cited unnamed sources, said Apple is working with AU Optronics and LG Display to test displays for the smaller iPad--but the report noted the effort might just be for testing and the company may not proceed with the device. Other tablet makers, including Samsung and Amazon.com, have opted for a 7-inch form factor for some of their tablets. In 2010, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs criticized smaller tablets and said the iPad's 9.7-inch form was "the minimum size required to create great tablet apps."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this separate WSJ article (sub. req.)

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